Toshiba has announced the world's biggest USB dongle - an impressive 16GB.

The TransMemory line of flash memory sticks range from 512MB up to 4GB, but with a special "limited edition" 16GB version, presumably just for showing off. The normal range will be available in November and the 16GB from December.

All support U3 technology enabling users to carry their data files, applications and personal computer settings. There is also a security programme to protect the data, and the dongles work with MacOS and Windows.

The drives measure just 62.5mm by 17.5mm by 8.5mm and weight just 8g, whereas the special 16GB USB drive measures 81 x 20 x 8mm and weights 12g. Pricing has yet to be confirmed.

Despite some uncertainty that people would want large-size portable USB drives, an explosion in memory dongles and a quick shift up the scale from the early 256MB to 1GB models has demonstrated that the gadget has niche appeal. Quite what use someone would have for 16GB version is uncertain as yet, but it may be one of the occasional cases of: who cares? It's a 16GB USB drive that fits in your pocket and weighs 12 grams!

The line is also a relflection of a wider move toward a more serious use of flash memory. Seagate has already produced a 32GB notebook flash drive and $1,600 will buy a 64GB Kangaru flash drive. Vista will be able to boot off flash drives and, just possibly, U3 flash drives will turn PCs into thin clients.